The Inquiry into the Security Legislation Amendment
(Terrorism) Bill 2002
and Related Bills
April 3, 2002. Submission from the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition.
The Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition was established in 1987 and has been organizing demonstrations at US bases and events ever since. We believe that these bases are not in Australia's or the world's interest and thus we work tirelessly for their removal from our soil.
Our Statement of Unity best points out our aims.
These aims, which empathize working for peace and for nuclear disarmament, are wholly laudatory and legitimate for a society such as ours. Not so under this new legislation.
The sorry event of September 11 2001 happened in another country far from our shores yet it is being used to suppress all dissent in this country. Both the US and the UK have introduced legislation along the lines of this so called 'Security legislation' these countries are prosecuting wars of revenge on countries such as Iraq and lately on Afghanistan. Australia unfortunately has been aiding and abetting these two bullies of the world yet we do not have the stature of the US or the UK.
We are not in the 'firing line' for terrorist organizations and most analysts would rank Australia as a very small risk for such attacks. Instead the event of September 11 is being used to suppress legitimate protest everywhere in the world. The inauguration of this legislation by the Australian Government is sinister and unnecessary. Legislation in place.
There is already a raft of legislation in place to combat any eventuality as envisaged by the new legislation. Kidnap, murder, indiscriminate killing and detonation of buildings are all covered in legislation, which we already have.
Democracy in Australia
The Australian Government and the Australian people delight in and are proud of the 'democratic values' of our society. However, when closely observed the values so proudly felt are very fragile and are openly attacked by Governments of both persuasions and severely restricted. We have the right of protesting outside Parliament restricted to such an extent that the people with grievances do not get their voices heard.
Nevertheless the touchstone of Democracy is the right to dissent from the Government. In Australia this right is hardly appreciated, in fact it is openly and deceptively portrayed by the media and politics as violence. The media always denigrates those protesting, it is as if the whole concept of civil disobedience is foreign and alien to Australia. We praise Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi for this activity yet if our own citizens embrace these methods they are castigated by the media and imprisoned by our police forces. With this background of the fragility of democracy the advent of this legislation is hardly appropriate.
Democracy in Australia and the ability to participate in the political process are already grossly under attack. State Governments have made it harder to register political parties for state and local government elections. While the people we have in power are funded by powerful corporations and bear little obligation to the people.
We are heading towards a situation like the US where only the mega rich like George W. Bush compete in elections. Even he needed a little help from his brother the Governor of Florida.
The media, public spaces are all forbidden to people who want to push an alternative message to the prevailing right wing pro Globalisation ideology. Even supermarkets will not let leaflets be given out during a Federal Election within their area! Slowly but surely all means of political expression have been withdrawn or are now being withdrawn.
In this context it is easy to see this legislation as means for suppressing and eventually wiping out any dissent.
In the late 80's elements of the USAF intelligence forces were in Australia checking out our organization. Jeffrey Richelson published by the University Press of Kansas documents this in the book "America's Space Sentinels". They had the total cooperation from the intelligence agencies of this country. When we complained to the Director of Intelligence Mr. Bill Blick we received a very unsatisfactory answer. He said if it was done for state security then it was OK and if it were done for this reason then we would not be told about it. In my view this power enough in the hands of ASIO.
Recently the case of DSD spying on the MUA was admitted and it was also stated that a mistake was made. There was no provision for a deeper explanation, compensation or punishment for a service, which crosses the line into illegality. The Attorney General remarked that it was illegal for the DSD to spy on Australian citizens but there is no way that an Australian citizen can stop the US from spying on them in Australia. It is also possible and has been known to happen for a foreign service to ask another service to spy for it. The most famous case of this was when Margaret Thatcher got the Canadian secret service to spy on members of her cabinet. The point of these cases and illustrations is that the intelligence services have more powers than they know how to use. Instead of assisting them in their nefarious attacks on democracy the Government should be restraining them from their feral natures.
We object to the following in the proposed legislation
80.1 (e, I & h)
These sections give too broad a definition to the notion of treason and endanger the aims and outcomes of our legitimate group in calling for an independent Australia away from the evil influence of the US and its military bases. We object in the strongest terms to these definitions and reject them totally as extreme and out of character to what is required in this society.
When this country has declared war on poor countries of the world in so called coalition armed forces with the US we have and will continue to object to this degrading activity. The n ew legislation will take away our right to protest and push an alternative view that pursued by whatever Government is in power. We challenge anyone in the government or in politics to label us as terrorists because we are working for nuclear disarmament. This will be the result if this flawed and knee jerk legislation is rushed through.
The term Terrorist Act to include any activity, which interferes with, disrupts or destroys any telecommunications, financial systems or transport system (roads) for political, ideological or religious beliefs. Again is a catchall phrase, a protest is meant to disrupt and interfere; this is the essence of protest. We intend to hinder the operations of Pine Gap because we believe that it an organizing institution for the targeting of civilians in Iraq and other places. The terror is on the side of the Government not on the side of those in our society who rightly and justly point this out.
This section aims to jail and silence dissent in Australia while Australia bestrides the world in high dudgeon about others who do similar things in countries we do not like. The ill-considered nature of this legislation and the haste of it are amply shown here.
Under section a person who coordinates and directs an organisation who fosters or prepares any actions under the new sweeping definition of terrorism is liable to life imprisonment: Life imprisonment is reserved for the most heinous murderers and rapists yet everyone of talent and energy who organizes to get this society improve can be prosecuted and be liable for life imprisonment. Absolutely out of proportion is this legislation; it is motivated by malice and hysteria not by wisdom and fairness. At the very first challenge it would fall over, as it is so laughable and so lacking in reality. This legislation will be a financial burden to future governments because they will have to pay costs for all released after appeal to the high Court.
Under this section, even being in possession of an item relating to a supposed act of terrorism could get you life.
Under this section collecting or producing documents could get you life.
In these sections the onus of proof is reversed breaking all the finest traditions of our legal system. No government can be so draconian in defending itself so that it takes on the form of those it proposes to resist. The Australian Government stands ready to become one of the most anti-rights governments on the planets and the distinction between our government and those it considers tyrants and despots will be hard to see.
Under section 102.2, the Government will be able to shut down an organization on very flimsy grounds. The crux of this section is preventing an organization preparing and generating information, which the Government does not like. This is fascism.
In view of the draconian and unwise nature of this legislation we recommend that the committee take the following proposals to the Government. We also note with alarm that the legislation bears the marks of haste even hysteria and thus the wise course is to slow the process right down. As well the legislation travels into areas of extreme sensitivity about democratic rights and international treaties on political rights and the right to express political views. All these rights are enshrined in various UN Declarations. We call on the Government and all our politicians to behave maturely and not be rushed into creating in Australia a mini despotic copy of the US and UK models of so-called anti-terror laws.
With this in mind we demand that:
a) Request of Parliament a further time period for public consultation.
Provide detailed briefing notes for public education on the impact of these Bills within a timeframe, which would allow full and advised public response.
Call for a public briefing in all capital cities of Australia and regional centres.
A personal pledge of disobedience
Due to the lack of time I have not had the opportunity to gather what I call statements of defiance.
My statement reads, "Regardless of your nasty and illogical laws I still intend to stand up for the poor and oppressed of this world. I will continue to work for disarmament and a better distribution of the world's wealth. I will not stand silent and see thousands killed by the world's only super power. I will resist, organize dissent despite the consequences provided in this thinly veiled attack on democracy called by you 'Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Bill 2002.